6 Game Changers: A Green Building Pioneer’s Guide to Disruptive Technology

Imagine a future where the skin, security, energy, water, controls, mechanical, lighting and occupants of a building are all talking to each other in real time.
Green building pioneer John Picard shares his favorite disruptive technologies at NeoCon 2015. Photo by Diana Mosher

Green building pioneer John Picard shares his favorite disruptive technologies at NeoCon 2015. Photo by Diana Mosher

ChicagoWhen green building pioneer, architect and entrepreneur John Picard, founder, John Picard & Associates, Sonoma, Calif., decided to put down roots in Silicon Valley, he quickly got busy looking to connect with the most innovative companies.

After surveying about 2,000, he saw that while many of the Valley’s tech companies boasted inventions, only a few were involved in creating truly disruptive technology. At NeoCon 2015 in Chicago, during a session titled, “Technology on the Bleeding Edge,” Picard shared his observations about how technology will continue to change the built environment.

“We are undergoing enormous changes as we transition from analog 2-D space to 3D space,” said Picard. “Imagine that the skin, security, energy, water, controls, mechanical, lighting and occupants of a building are all talking to each other in real time. The buildings are sensate, adaptive, regenerative, cost effective and healthy. It’s a reality on the very near horizon.”

Best of all the new science of building connectivity supports occupant health and safety. Here are 6 companies to watch:

1. Inertech‘s conductive cooling coil/technology uses 90 percent less energy. As Picard noted, data centers burn lots of energy and this interferes with a company’s ability to reduce its carbon footprint. “Inertech had a flash of genius,” said Picard. “There is still a need for the cooling tower, but they have reduced the energy for a data center by 60 percent and reduced the amount of water needed in a data center as well.” Now Inertech is building customizable data centers that scale up or down based on a company’s needs.

2. Enlighted. Originally designed to dim lights, this company’s product has a sensor that enables a heat map view of all people in a given area of a building. Especially useful for fire safety, it will provide a view of every floor that has the device mounted on overhead lights. “You can a get data stream on who’s using what seating in an office or hotel,” said Picard. “The portfolio value goes up. Also, the sensors can talk to a smart carpet.”

3. View Glass (electrochromic or “smart” glass) is a home run in disruptive technology, according to Picard, and commonplace in Silicon Valley. “This is like sunglasses for buildings. We won’t need blinds or blackout shades [anymore]. It reduces the connected energy load to a building. It needs to be powered (but my iPad could power three quarters of the facade of the Merchandise Mart).” If the power goes out, the facade defaults to e-glass. This is molecular air conditioning for the skin of a building, Picard added. “There’s no glare. It’s the biggest carbon reduction effort.”

4. Lumenetix. We are only just beginning to know how natural light heals and affects mood. This simple, tiny device produces full spectrum light such as found in nature. “It’s transformative technology,” said Picard. “It’s a light dimmer that has three antennas and three radios. You put it overhead and it changes circadian rhythms to adjust for jet lag. replicating a continuous wide spectrum of natural light.”

5. AspenAir. “They make a big air filter,” said Picard. By putting in a chip the size of a scrabble piece, the building operations team will be able to track what impurities are being filtered out and obtain real time air quality data.

6. Lucid is a software overlay that aggregates and connects all these technologies. Lucid enables intelligent buildings.

Picard is also excited about power density and storage breakthroughs; analytics and trending software; and battery power density. “The availability of data will guarantee more green buildings,” he said. “Wearables will replace hospitals. Phones will be charged once a month. Energy storage is the future. When we install chips and sensors that collect data, our perspective is changed.”

For example, imagine the strides that would be made in construction worker safety and productivity if they began wearing helmets outfitted with data visualization and a GoPro camera. “It will be able to broadcast two miles. We know that 70 percent of construction work happens before lunch… so what happens the rest of the day? One day soon we’ll be able to measure that.”